Friday, September 21, 2012

Specimen Ridge Trail Report

I hiked this trail on Wednesday after heading off early in the morning, motoring slowly through road construction up by Roosevelt and finally parking. I set foot on the trail by 8:30 a.m.
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It was a beautiful day with blue skies. Here's a spectacular sunrise in the Hayden Valley. I stopped to take several shots like other tourists driving along the park road and watching bison waking up, enjoying a peaceful late summer day.



Once on trail, the paths split and I ended up off route peering over a huge drop off, spell bound by the beauty. Alone, I could take whatever time, route and breaks I pleased. Not a soul was seen until the afternoon. My companions were bison, Pronghorn (antelope) and several noisy ground squirrels. They seemed as surprised to see me as I them.

 
I felt eyes watching me, spun around, saw antelope and large Pronghorn watching from the mesa. All day, several others crossed my path. They were fat and sleek, traveling leisurely. There was no water on the route. It was quite warm for September. I was glad I had two quarts with me. 

 
The further I went, the more sketchy the trail became. Finally I saw a tall pole surrounded by rocks, a nice trail marker. I swung south, got on the real trail and started hiking several miles farther. I pulled out my binoculars, scoping for bear, at last glimpsing several large brown animals. Turns out they were solo bison.

 
Many large holes such as this badger home and various tunnels were seen along the way. I stopped to take a photo but saw no animals and marveled at the sheer size and quantity.
 

 
Heading back, I took out my field glasses and searched for markers then headed cross country looking for the designated trail. It reminded me of the CDT routes. The saying is that no two people can hike it exactly the same.

 I helped set a pole up then hauled rocks to brace it, knowing how important the poles were should snow hit. I thoroughly enjoyed my hike, did about 12 miles and met two school bus loads of kids from Cody taking a lunch break just one mile from the trail head. You can do a short hike from the Yellowstone picnic area. Its about 3 miles, which is what I figured they did, intersecting the Specimen Ridge trail near where I found them lunching.

The smoke is very strong still in Yellowstone. The fires abated a little after a night of rain. The water levels are quite low and its very dry. But so far, I've not had my hiking hindered in any way due to these circumstances.

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